Consumer Confidential With David Lazarus
Newsletter

California Inc.: A lucrative 'Joshua Tree' to grow in Pasadena

Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

On Friday, we learned that auto buying and online shopping rose in December. The spending likely was fueled by rising consumer confidence, which has climbed since the election to the highest level in nearly a decade. Also, average hourly pay rose 2.9% in December from a year earlier, the most in seven years.

LOOKING AHEAD

Only to be with you: Tickets for U2’s “Joshua Tree” tour go on sale Tuesday. The tour is timed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree,” the band’s landmark 1987 album. U2 will roll into the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on May 20. The group’s tours have been among the most lucrative in music history. Its 360 Tour, from 2009 to 2011, is ranked as the highest-grossing concert tour of all time.

Auto auction: Cars owned by music stars Steven Tyler and Justin Bieber, as well as other celebrities, will be up for sale in Arizona this week at Barrett-Jackson’s annual Scottsdale vehicle auction, one of the year’s biggest collector auto sales events. The event, which began Saturday, will run all week, ending Sunday. Tyler’s 2012 Hennessey Venom GT Spyder will be auctioned Friday. Bieber’s 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia will be up for sale Saturday.

Cabinet nominees: Donald Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of the Department of Commerce, billionaire financier Wilbur Ross, will go before a Senate committee on Wednesday for a confirmation hearing. Treasury pick Steven Mnuchin will have his confirmation hearing Thursday. Other Cabinet nominees who have hearings this week are Ryan Zinke (Interior), Betsy DeVos (Education) and Scott Pruitt (EPA).

Jobs report: The latest report on the state’s jobs picture will be released Friday by the California Employment Development Department. One closely watched figure will be California’s unemployment rate, which in November dropped to 5.3% after four months at 5.5%. A Jan. 6 Labor Department report showed that the U.S. economy finished 2016 with a slowdown in job growth but a surge in wage gains.

Light it up: About a decade after the Main Street Electrical Parade left Disneyland, the cavalcade of lights and music will return to the Anaheim park on Friday. The Electrical Parade was a fan favorite at Disneyland from 1972 until 1996. When the parade was discontinued, Disneyland launched a promotion urging fans to see the parade before it “glows away forever.” This version of the parade will run until June 18.

THE AGENDA

Monday’s Business section looks into the jaw-dropping speed at which certain stocks have moved in response to Donald Trump’s tweets. Turns out sophisticated traders are using computer algorithms that instantly capture and process Trump’s Twitter remarks and then immediately buy or sell the affected stocks. “It’s in the algorithms,” said Joe Gits, chief executive of Social Market Analytics. His firm culls the 500 million tweets issued daily on Twitter to find remarks from influential people such as Trump that could affect stocks and then relays that “sentiment” data to traders.

STORY LINES

Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

Tax the rich? Income growth is slowing for the highest-earning Californians. That’s the single biggest driver of the $1.6-billion deficit projected by Gov. Jerry Brown for the state’s 2017-2018 fiscal year budget. And once again it is raising the question of whether California has grown too reliant on taxing rich people with often wildly fluctuating incomes.

Industry woes: It was a bad week for the auto industry. Six Volkswagen executives were indicted on federal charges tied to the automaker’s emissions scandal, and the company agreed to plead guilty to violating U.S. air quality laws. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler allegedly failed to disclose software in some of its pickups and SUVs that enabled them to emit more pollution than allowed. And Takata agreed to plead guilty to a criminal charge and pay $1 billion in fines and restitution for concealing a deadly defect in its air bag inflators.

Bowels of bureaucracy: William B. Gould IV, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointee to lead the board charged with protecting the rights of the state’s farmworkers, announced his resignation. Gould, appointed by Brown to chair the Agricultural Labor Relations Board in March 2014, said a board proposal to send educators to farms to inform workers of their rights “has languished in the bowels of state bureaucracy for the past 14 months.”

Canadian Apparel: American Apparel once proudly touted its “Made in Los Angeles” motto. With its sale to a Canadian sportswear firm, neither American Apparel’s name nor its motto will ring so true. Gildan Activewear agreed to pay $88 million in a winning auction bid for the American Apparel brand and some manufacturing equipment. Gildan did not buy any of the company’s 110 retail stores in the U.S. Those stores are likely to close within a few months.

Very Gehry: For more than a decade, the prospect that another Frank Gehry development might rise across from the architect’s signature Walt Disney Concert Hall has tantalized downtown Los Angeles. Now, the elaborate Related Cos. commercial and residential development designed by Gehry finally could get off the ground after a Chinese builder has put $290 million into the venture.

WHAT WE’RE READING

And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

Trump conflicts: The Atlantic scrutinizes Trump’s plans to deal with his business conflicts — or not. Steps revealed last week “do almost nothing to substantively address concerns that his business entanglements will undermine his ability to faithfully execute the office of the presidency.”

Here we go again: The Wall Street Journal casts a wary eye at a fast-growing lending practice that “has eerie echoes of the subprime crisis,” with loans going to people who may not be able to repay them.

The war on Cohen: The New Yorker tees off on a federal investigation into hedge-fund legend Steven A. Cohen, a “nearly 10-year battle against one of the most powerful men on Wall Street.”

Guacamole galore: Have we reached peak avocado? Quartz spotlights an avocado-only restaurant in Amsterdam, set to open next month, that has only one rule: “The dishes need to contain the green super fruit in one way or another.”

Furry finance: From Bloomberg, a look at the high-cost, high-risk world of modern pet care. “We’re all kind of crazy about our pets. It’s why the business is so resilient.”

SPARE CHANGE

In honor of that story on pricey pet care, some fave songs with critters in the title. As a Beatles backer, I’ll top my list with “Blackbird.” Can’t ignore America’s “Horse With No Name.” Special shoutouts to the B-52s for “Rock Lobster” and David Bowie for “Cat People.” But top prize goes to either the Stones’ “Wild Horses” or Led Zep’s “Black Dog.”

For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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